During the presentation of the forecasts for the Catalan sweet fruit campaign, held on May 20, the president of the Catalan fruit business association (Afrucat), Francesc Torres, and the general director for Food and Agro-food Industries of the Catalan Government, Carmel Mòdol, said that although the coronavirus pandemic has not paralyzed the agricultural sector, it has had a significant impact on the working conditions and the production costs.
The increase in costs derived from the strict safety standards that producers must follow, in addition to the 6% rise in the workers' wages, have caused production costs in Catalonia to increase. "The sector couldn't have endured another campaign without covering its costs," said Torres, recalling the sector's protests early in the year due to the price crisis.
Catalonia's production will fall by 18%
This year, Catalonia expects its sweet stone fruit production to fall by 18.6% compared to 2019, down to 413,050 tons. Given this, growers expect a significant rise in the price at origin (the first indicators point to them increasing by 25%), which will have to be covered by retailers. "The fruit shouldn't be sold by supermarkets for 6 Euro while the producer sells it for 50 cents," said Afrucat's director general, Manel Simon, who demanded fair prices. It remains to be seen whether retailers will accept a drop in their profits or will increase their prices.
"This year, we believe that the Catalan productive sector will be able to get good prices," said the general director of Afrucat. “Everything points to a possible shortage of peaches and nectarines in the market. There won't be enough for everyone," he said.
Afrucat also warned of difficulties in finding laborers this season due to the closure of borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Producers have again asked the government for assistance in the hiring of foreign workers and have requested a regularization of illegal immigrants so that they are allowed to work in the field, as Italy has recently done.